Jorvik Viking Festival

Explore the Jorvik Group


It takes more than a storm named ‘Doris’ to scare the Vikings, who will be congregating in York this weekend for the finale of the JORVIK Viking Festival – and the Norse warriors are offering top tips for Festival attendees to keep warm whatever the weather throws at them!

Tip one: Wool keeps you warm!

Wool was a staple of the Viking wardrobe, from tunics to caps and cloaks, and there is evidence of wool-working in York with loom weights found during archaeological excavations.  The JORVIK Viking Festival visitors can:

  • See a traditional breed of Viking sheep, similar to the animals that would have tended around North Yorkshire in Viking times
  • Watch the wool being woven into fabric in the JORVIK on Tour exhibition in York St Mary’s in the Coppergate Centre
  • See it being worn by hundreds of Vikings during the March to Coppergate.

Tip two: animal skins provide waterproof protection

The Vikings were great hunters through necessity, using many different parts of the animals they hunted for different purposes, from bone to make combs, horns to make cups.  All of the edible parts would be consumed, and pelts used for blankets and trimmings.  Skins were tanned to make leather which was used for anything from shoes to belts.  Visitors will see:

  • Fur used for bed coverings in the Viking encampment in Coppergate
  • Vikings wearing genuine leather shoes created from examples found during the Coppergate dig.

“The one drawback of leather shoes with a leather sole is that water does saturate the shoe before long, so woollen socks were essential to keep the feet warm, even when wet,” comments event manager, Nicola Harkess.  “Incredibly a well-preserved woollen sock is one of the most important finds from Coppergate, made using a technique called ‘nalebinding’ – and we are delighted to have Mari Wickerts of Gothenburg Museum joining us for the Festival again this year, teaching nalebinding classes and demonstrating the technique in York St Mary’s in Coppergate.”

Tip three: wear a hat (but not a horned helmet!)

Horned helmets are a big no-no in York – the idea of putting ‘handles’ onto your helmet for your enemy to hold on to is something no Viking warrior would ever do! – but hats are worn by most Vikings.

“Most Viking women would wear head coverings, whether a simple knotted scarf or a draped scarf which can be wrapped under the chin, covering the hair and leaving only the face exposed – and there is some suggestion that the style of head-dress may relate to a woman’s marital status,” adds Nicola.  “Men could wear metal helmets during battle, but the rest of the time could wear knitted caps or hats made of leather and fur to protect against the elements when they were farming or exploring cooler climes.”

Tip four: grow a beard

Contemporary illustrations of Vikings men show many with elaborate and well-groomed facial hair, which served both a practical purpose, keeping their faces protected against the cold weather and wind-burn on the North Sea, and aesthetic reasons – a great beard was also seen as a sign of virility!

“We celebrate beards of all descriptions at the JORVIK Viking Festival, especially with our Best Beard Competition, which takes place on Saturday afternoon (2.30pm in Coppergate),” comments Nicola.  “We’re welcoming entries for beards long and short, natural or homemade, with men, women and children all welcome to take part.  Inventive materials and decoration are always welcome, and we have a special guest judge from Sweyn Forkbeard grooming products helping us pick the winners!”

Some events during the Festival take place under cover in the Parliament Street marquee and a yurt in St Sampson’s Square, but others – including the March to Coppergate from York Minster featuring hundreds of Viking warriors – will take place whatever the weather.  “The best advice is to wrap up warm and prepare for anything – that’s what the Vikings would have done!” concludes Nicola.

For further information on this year’s JORVIK Viking Festival events, many of which are free of charge, please visit


Notes to editors:  At the time of writing (3.15pm on Tuesday 21 February), an amber weather warning is in place for Storm Doris from 0600 to 1800 on Thursday 23 February.  York is expected to be spared the snow forecast for higher ground.

For further media information or photographs, please contact:

Jay Commins
Pyper York Limited
Tel:         01904 500698